Are there no closing gambits? Anyway, in today's Guardian, Simon Jenkins laments the death of the conversation, "particularly the thesis, antithesis, synthesis of Socratic dialogue", which he claims has been banished by the mobile phone. I don't recall much Socratic dialogue in the pre-mobile-phone speech of my late grandmother and aunts, whose "“Well, she says to me, she says, eee, and I says to her I says, by ‘eck, and she says to me, she says, you never, and I says to her I says….” was not so different in substance from the "“I’m like “duh?”, and she’s like “hello?”, and I’m like “puhlease”' of today's teenagers. Nevertheless, readers of New English Review -- lonely old codgers to a man -- may find the following rules useful should we ever tear ourselves away from our computers, wash under our codgery armpits and go and meet a real person:
How to open a good conversation:
1) Immediately show an interest in the other person.
2) Try to extract an opinion of some sort, and reasons for it. Never disagree with it openly, but try to construct a dialogue based on it.
3) Never ask intimate questions, unless invited to do so.
4) Always be the one to change the subject if the going gets rough.
5) Try to leave the conversation in good repair should it be interrupted.
Five of the worst conversational openings:
1) You must be very busy these days.
2) Do you live round here?
3) Do you have any children?
4) Will it never stop raining?*
5) Gosh, this party is boring.
*Write on one side of the paper only.